Beekeeping gear – DIY or buy?

Beekeeping can be an expensive hobby. There’s a lot of gear involved – from the hives themselves, to the suit and gloves, to all the useful little tools and accessories.

New hobbyist beekeepers tend to go one of two ways – they splash out on all the best high-end gear, without really considering whether they need it; or they decide to DIY everything from hives to hoods – without necessarily knowing what they’re doing.

At Ecrotek, we think a healthy balance between the two is the best way to go. Some gear really is essential, some is optional. Some things are important if you’re selling honey, but just nice-to-have if you’re a hobbyist. It’s all about doing your research, talking to the right people, and choosing the right products for your needs.

Here’s our guide to getting the gear right:

Suiting up

Your beekeeping suit is one of your most important pieces of equipment. A good one should be comfortable, breathable, and well-secured, so stray bees aren’t able to find their way in. This is one area you can’t DIY. Many beekeepers have tried to get away with just a mask, hat, and long sleeves - and have ended up regretting it.

It is technically possible to buy a second-hand bee suit, but it’s not easy. Not only are there few suits available, but you don’t have the protection of a refund or replacement if the suit isn’t in good shape. One thing to be aware of whenever you buy secondhand gear is the potential risk of it being AFB infected. If you do try this route, make sure you try on the suit before you buy it, and check for any holes or rips. New suits are much easier to source in the right size – and they’ll have compatible hats and/or hoods that zip on and off.

Building your hive

When it comes to the hive itself, it is possible to buy new, source second hand, or build yourself – it all depends how much money you want to spend, and your level of DIY ability.

As usual, buying new is the easiest way to go – and it can be a relatively cost-effective. At Ecrotek, we sell boxes ready assembled, paraffin-dipped and painted, meaning you can they are ready to put straight onto a hive. Building your own hive is possible if you’re the handy type, but it can be tricky to get the details right - make sure to use a pattern or instructions if you haven’t done it before. A good half-way point is assembling your own hive buy buying your boxes kitset.

Buying second-hand hives on Trade Me or through a beekeeping group is possible, but it’s important to check that they’re in good condition before you make the purchase. You’ll also need to clean them thoroughly to make sure they’re not harbouring disease or pests.

Be aware that some diseases – particularly American Foulbrood Disease (AFB) – cannot be eradicated by cleaning. The only way to get rid of AFB is by burning the affected equipment. So if you do choose to buy second-hand hives, try to buy from a trusted source.

Tools of the trade

Smaller beekeeping tools – like frame grips and hive tools – are not strictly necessary, but they can be very useful. You may be able to do without or find them second hand, but they are actually not particularly expensive to buy new.

A smoker is an essential tool to have at your disposal, but the most expensive model isn’t necessarily the best one for you. It’s a good idea to handle a range of smokers and read reviews before you buy, so you find the one that easy for you to handle.

At the other extreme, tools such as vaporisers and bee blowers can be costly, and you won’t usually need them if you’re a hobbyist.

Extract and store

Extracting honey involves handling food – so it’s worth using new, clean, and fit-for-purpose gear, even if you don’t plan to sell your product. For example, you could probably get away with using a mesh kitchen strainer to strain your honey in a pinch, but it will be easier and more effective to use a proper double strainer with both coarse and fine mesh weaves.

Storage is a different story. Honey can be stored in any lidded jar, so you can be thrifty. Start a collection of empty jars, and ask around – friends and family are usually happy to pass on theirs as well. Just make sure lids are secure, and that all jars are thoroughly washed and sterilised before you use them. Of course, if you plan to sell your honey, you will probably want to use consistently sized jars, so it’s better to buy in bulk from a supplier.

Starting your beekeeping journey is exciting, so it’s easy to get carried away buying high-end equipment and all the accessories. But getting set up doesn’t have to be hugely expensive. If you do your research, hunt for bargains, and find out exactly what you do and don’t need, you can save a significant chunk of change. And if you’re unsure about any purchase, have a chat to the experts at Ecrotek for advice.

Get started now – check out Ecrotek’s range of beekeeping essentials.